Once viewed as a hippies-only discipline, yoga is now available at most gyms where it offers ways to recapture youth and live better as well as longer.
There may not be a verifiable fountain of youth, but it just so happens that an ancient spiritual discipline composed of mindful stretches and artfully arranged poses may actually have the power to help you ditch stress and combat the signs of aging. Once viewed as a hippies-only discipline, yoga is now available at most gyms, rec centers, and yes, senior centers, where it offers the elderly a number of ways to recapture their youth and live better as well as longer.
Keeping Your Heart Healthy
According to the National Academy on Aging Society, more than 43% of Americans over the age of 65 have been diagnosed with some type of heart disease, and the likelihood of being disabled or put on bed rest is more than double among heart disease suffers when compared to their healthier counterparts. Yoga not only helps to reduce stress, which can have a negative impact on heart health, it also engages participants in low-impact exercise and muscular resistance training that recent studies have found is at least as effective if not more so than more traditional forms of exercise like aerobics when it comes to producing positive changes regarding cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome risk factors.
Improve Flexibility and Joint Health
Anyone who has climbed a flight of stairs or hoisted themselves out of a comfortable recliner only to be greeted with the unpleasant sound of creaking or cracking joints can testify to the fact that aging is often associated with mobility issues and often some accompanying pain. Yoga is a progressive practice, meaning participants can start at almost any level of flexibility and health and expect to experience continual improvement for however long they commit to working through their daily poses. Rheumatologist Dr. Sharon Kolasinki, who is also a professor of clinical medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, led a study on how yoga affected people with osteoarthritis in their knee and found that 90 minutes of Inyengar yoga one a week for 8 weeks resulted in marked improvements in the patient’s pain levels, physical function, and overall mobility.
Achieve Better Balance
The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (part of the CDC) says that every year some 1/3 of adults over the age of 65 report some sort of fall, many of which result in injuries that range from simple lacerations to hip fractures to severe – and sometimes even fatal – head injuries. Building and maintaining leg strength and balance can help prevent and reduce the instance of falls in the elderly, and yoga is a great place to start. Incorporating yoga into a daily rehabilitation routine has been proven to help improve balance in post-stroke patients as well as boost confidence and overall quality of life, and regular yoga sessions in healthy patients could well yield similar outcomes.
Smooth Out Your Smile
Smile lines may be indicative of a life well lived, but for some people wrinkles are all-too-visible signs of stress. A study of 104 people in India saw participant’s oxidative stress levels drop by 9 percent following ten days of yoga practice, and no less an authority than the Mayo Clinic advocates yoga as a means to “reduce risk factors for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure” as well as stating that yoga may be a factor in helping to “alleviate chronic conditions, such as depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia.” Not only does reducing stress help regulate your metabolism and improve overall physical and mental health, less stress means less time subconsciously gritting your teeth, pursing your lips, and winkling your brow, all of which add to the outward appearance of aging.